Starting Your Business in Norway? KPMG Advises on Responsible Accounting

In support of the startup community in Norway, Startup Weekend Stavanger (SWS) were invited to do an exclusive interview with KPMG’s legal accounting team. Read on to find out what they advise from the most common accounting mistakes that startups make in year one to the key tax issues to consider when starting a new business.

KPMG offers advice on accounting and tax for startups. [Photo credit: Natalie Hilton]
KPMG offers advice on accounting and tax for startups. [Photo credit: Natalie Hilton]
SWS: What is the most common accounting mistakes that new businesses make in year one of their startup business?

KPMG: The most common mistake is that new businesses underestimate the value of good routines for bookkeeping. If you do not establish routines, and get behind with this, you will have big challenges even though you have the greatest business idea. We often see lack of knowledge and competence connected to accounting and to the legal framework, especially for small enterprises with few employees and lack of people with economic background. However, good order and systems will sometimes even be more important than knowledge and competence. New businesses must also be aware of the liquidity. When expanding, it might take some time until you see the income, however, salary costs and other costs will apply continuously.

SWS: What are the key tax issues to consider when starting a business in Norway?

KPMG: The overall main issue is to act in accordance with reporting requirements and tax reporting deadlines from the first day. If you start failing on this, it might be time consuming and expensive to align afterwards. Of course, it is of importance to investigate which tax rules that will apply for you, based on how your business is organized. For example, there is a beneficial rule named “SkatteFUNN” that might lead to reduced taxes for businesses conducting research and development.

If you sell goods and/or services to other countries, please note that such business activity might lead to tax- and reporting obligation in the other country.

If you hire employees, it is important, among others, to make the required registrations, establish a separate bank account for withholding tax, and establish the required pension scheme (OTP) Incidentally, we recommend that you hire an accountant to handle the above, potentially with assistance from a tax adviser.

SWS: For simplicity and cost savings, many startups begin their business as a sole proprietorship. What advice would you give from an accounting and tax perspective when starting a business under this company form?

KPMG: The advantage of establishing a Sole Proprietorship is that it is easy to establish. However, please note that you are personal responsible. A Private Limited company will in principle limit your risk to the share capital. A private Limited company will also often be perceived as more professional in the market.

SWS: Many startups get confused about VAT, such as knowing when to charge VAT and knowing when to register themselves as a VAT registered business. What is your advice to startups to avoid any tax and accounting issues with VAT?

KPMG: From the time you exceed a turnover of NOK 50 000, you are obliged to register for VAT. However, some business are exempt, for example financial services, health and education. Some advice that could imply a significant benefit is to apply for an advance registration in the VAT register. This is possible if you have had investments exceeding NOK 250 000 including VAT, and it means that you are permitted to deduct VAT even if you have no turnover. It is also important to be aware of the possibility of exception within some industries, for example the petroleum industry.

SWS: In the first year of a business, startups often don’t have the funds to employ a professional accountant or lawyer to assist them with their business activities. What is your advice to startups in this situation?

KPMG: We fully understand that the main focus is to build up the business, and that you do not want to spend much money on compliance. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, it is very important to handle at least the minimum requirements for tax and reporting. There is no doubt that it will save you from concerns and costs if you handle this correctly from the start. We also recommend to contact some advisers that you can contact when you need it.

SWS: Are there specific accounting practices in Norway that differ from other markets that startups need to be aware of? Where can startups learn more about these accounting laws?

KPMG: The rules will in general be the same. However, within some industries there might be separate rules and principles, for example within oil and gas and within some manufacturing enterprises.

If you need more information, please read about KPMG Accounting’s services on the following link here. [In Norwegian].

SWS: With thanks to the following KPMG representatives for their time and advice for this article:

  • Marius Basteviken, Partner, Attorney at law and Business Economist at KPMG Law. Specialist in corporate tax and Transfer Pricing
  • Anne Tengs-Pedersen, Attorney-at-Law at KPMG Law, and specialised in individual taxes and employment law for Norwegian employees as well as for cross border workers.
  • Marit Opstad, Associate Attorney-at-law at KPMG law, specialised in VAT

kpmg_logoSee KPMG‘s website for more information on their services.

Why doesn’t everyone want to start their own business?

Startup Weekend Stavanger’s 2015 event is sponsored by DNB, which is Norway’s largest financial services group. Kristine Moe Sirnes, Marketing Manager DNB corporate, Rogaland and Agder, gives her perspective on partnering with Startup Weekend Stavanger as a Platinum Sponsor.

Kristine Moe Sirnes, Marketing Manager DNB corporate, Rogaland and Agder
Kristine Moe Sirnes, DNB

After having worked hard (and a lot) with getting to know what Startup is all about, I can’t understand why everyone who is still trying to figure out what to do with their life, won’t consider starting their own business!

Okay, so you need a good idea, I get that 😉

All jokes aside, here’s some of what I’ve learned this past year or so.

Working with corporate marketing in DNB is fun, I enjoy almost every single day! We want to engage and encourage more people to start their own businesses. We are cheering for the entrepreneurs, the people who are willing to create not only their own, but new jobs for others as well! We want to share our knowledge and help people build healthy companies by cheering, coaching and giving them economical advice and counselling. No matter the circumstances, we aim at being there for all businesses. Every day. And when it matters the most.

I have learned a lot about entrepreneurship this past year. It’s a never ending learning process, and it thrills me every time I’m in touch with the startup-environment.

Throughout 2014 I was out and about a lot – participating, joining, meeting, presenting, communicating, listening and asking a lot of questions! What gives me a kick is that this is such an incredibly exciting business! We have met all sorts of people and entrepreneurs. So many interesting businesses – and it’s very rewarding when we get to work together with companies like Innovasjon Norge, Skape, Ipark and many more.I love what we have accomplished by working together and towards the same goal – helping and being the best for each other.

If you haven’t yet visited Open Coffee or any of the various co-working spaces in Stavanger east – Mess & Order, Absinthen, Erfjordgt. 8 or Tinnfabrikken yet, be sure to do so! And I am sure you’ll be as amazed as I am when you get to spend time in the exciting facilities hosting Startup Weekend right now – Innovation Dock. I love spending time in Stavanger East!

Anyway – one of the most fun, engaging and amazingly inspiring events we participated at last year when we were out and about, was Startup Weekend Stavanger in October. The concept is great! This is so edutainment! Loads of fun and extremely educational. All kinds of inspiring people, (most of them a lot younger than me though 😉 If I were to contemplate on starting my own business this would so be the event to attend! But, I sincerely think that the Startup Weekend event is a great place for anyone to join, as you get to embrace the positive energy that evolves when people eager to create and innovate get together.

Startup Weekend Stavanger [Photo: Andrea Rocha]
Startup Weekend Stavanger [Photo: Andrea Rocha]
I am very glad we are engaged as a Startup Weekend Stavanger Platinum Sponsor again this year.

I have personally been impatiently waiting for a very interesting report that is soon to be released and published (20th of April). Menon Business Economics has studied a variety of successful Startups from 2003 and up until last year. Menon Business Economics has been digging for information on what successful entrepreneurs have in common. Do they have certain similarities? What do they have in common? What is it about these specific cases that made them successful? I don’t know of any similar study, which makes me very happy that it was DNB who decided to have this type of research done. I’m hoping this is a kind of recipe on how you might succeed as an entrepreneur.

DNB cropped

And I can’t wait for us to be able to share this information with you and with everyone. You are hereby specially invited to spend half an hour with us on Saturday 25th of April, when we are ready to share the headlines with you. We will be celebrating the official opening of our flagship store in Stavanger city center by giving you a little festival with OnklP, Highasakite and Leo Ajkic, among others. Around noon we’ll present the report and show you some cool stuff 😉 (That said, I think you should join us for the entire day of course, check out details about the full program here. It’s free and there will be some great live music, an outdoor scene, entertainment and hopefully some great edutainment as well!

Lots of luck at the Startup Weekend event! I hope to see you all at our event by our Stavanger-flagshipstore on the 25th this month!

Best regards – Kristine

DNB is Norway’s largest financial services group and one of the largest in the Nordic region in terms of market capitalisation. The Group offers a full range of financial services, including loans, savings, advisory services, insurance and pension products for retail and corporate customers. For more information see here.

It all Started with Pitching on Green Grass!

Day One – Friday: The doors opened for Startup Weekend Stavanger at 6:00pm with eager participants waiting to get inside and explore the event space at Innovation Dock. dnb image

Gift bags lined the registration desk waiting to be explored and this year, the participant gift bags were filled with even more cool things thanks to the generosity of the 2015 local sponsors, DNB, KPMG and Innovation Norway! The quirky participant weekend passes were also back with the option to draw yourself as well as write your name on the badge!

With bags and badges distributed, the participants headed straight to the dinner tables to enjoy a range of amazing burgers and spiced potato wedges from the local catering business, House of Fingerfood.

Dinner was followed by a brief welcome from this year’s event Lead Organsers, Natalie Hilton and Nina Meldahl, before passing over the microphone to event Facilitator, Dwight Gunning, to lead the way and get the participants on track for Stavanger’s 2015 Startup Weekend event.

First Guest Speaker Takes the Stage…

The first guest speaker of the night got participants in the right mind set for the weekend by challenging them to think differently about their startup business ideas with a thought provoking presentation. Alain Fassotte, Partner at the Stavanger based change management company, Tribe, inspired participants to move away from habit and automatic thinking and get used to the way that change feels, and just maybe, find a better way to do things. Who would have thought that a simple thumb experiment would make everyone sit up and listen and realise that that when we sometimes do something, we do it out of habit. This showed us all that a little bit of focus and thought is all that is needed to make a small change that could actually make you experience something familiar in a different way. It might feel “weird” but it might also be the solution you were looking for. Thumbs up to our first speaker for presenting a talk that challenged the same old thinking in business and encouraged the entrepreneur mind-set in all of us!

Time to Pitch!

With around 60 guests and participants filling up the venue space with standing room only just before the pitches, it looked set to be a great evening for everyone and the Stavanger event team were there in full force to make sure all participants and guests have a great Startup Weekend experience.

Following the guest speaker presentation, event facilitator Dwight, wasted no time to get the participants ready for the next stage of the evening – the eagerly anticipated pitches!! The audience included some sponsors and all of this year’s event mentors who came along to the pitches to get a glimpse of the ideas and show their enthusiasm for the event concept.

Of the 45 participants that registered to take part in this evening’s pitches, nearly half of them decided to pitch. There were 23 pitches that took place on the rather unusual green grass stage at Innovation Dock tonight, with ideas including a rival concept to Facebook, an online art buying business and an entertainment concept requiring it’s guests to complete challenges to escape specially designed rooms.

With pitches completed, participants and guests excitedly buzzing around the room, casting their votes. After a lively voting session, the votes were counted and 10 teams formed to go forward to the next phase. Groups quickly set up camp around the tables and started to explore the available business tools to structure their ideas, which included printed sheets of the Business Model Canvas.

With the most popular business ideas selected, the newly formed teams used their final hour to get started with exploring the potential of their freshly pitched concepts and test their team dynamics. Before closing the event venue at 11pm, the event team used the bribe of a great breakfast tomorrow sponsored by the new startup business caterer, Food for Thought, in association with Helgø Meny and Alpro, to inspire participants to get up and get started early for their day!

With a good breakfast and two amazing guest speakers to kick of the event tomorrow morning, the participants are in for another exciting day at Startup Weekend Stavanger’s 2015 event. The event team and mentors are also looking forward to seeing where tomorrow leads and what the teams do with their ideas on their startup journey that all started with a green grass stage, some courage and some interesting ideas that may have the potential to win over the judges this Sunday!

Good luck to the newly formed teams for this year’s event. See you tomorrow for breakfast, two great speakers from DNB and Future Home, and another exciting day bursting with your great startup energy and enthusiasm!

AND – If you want to connect with other participants from the Friday pitches and you forgot to exchange details, email and we can try to connect you!

Startup Weekend Participants Get Valuable Advice From DNB Bank

Terje R. Fanebust, Senior Vice President of DNB Sør-Rogaland. [Photo: Rights of DNB]
Terje R. Fanebust, Senior Vice President of DNB Sør-Rogaland. [Photo: Rights of DNB]
On a mission to promote learning and knowledge for startups during the event and beyond the weekend, the lead organisers of Startup Weekend Stavanger introduced a Breakfast Seminar. The initiative involved a one hour business talk session to give insights and knowledge on key business areas that are vital to startups in their journey to establish their business.

The seminar was part of Stavanger Impact Week, with representatives from DNB and KPMG taking part and presenting at the Breakfast Seminar hosted from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM at the event venue, Mess and Order.

The first guest speaker was Terje R. Fanebust , Senior Vice President of DNB Sør-Rogaland, who currently represents the division responsible for startups and growth companies.

DNB is a leading global player in banking in selected industries in Norway and is present in fish and oil sectors including North America and Baltics. According to Terje, DNB currently has 2.1 million retail customers and 220,000 corporate customers. DNB is also one of the largest companies on the Oslo stock exchange.

The Gap between Expectation and Reality

Terje started his presentation with a series of statements and facts about the performance and potential of startups that included the reality that “1 in 3 startups will fail.” Terje then asked the audience, which predominantly consisted of Startup Weekend participants, “How does that make you feel?”

There was a silence around the room as the event participants contemplated the reality of this fact and the relevance it had to every one of them, who were at Startup Weekend to try and establish the framework of their own startup business ideas. Terje then offered the participants some light and hope by saying, “I believe there is a gap between expectation and reality and banks can build that bridge to make it happen.”

Terje from DNB presents to participants during Startup Weekend Stavanger. [Photo: Andrea Rocha]
Terje from DNB presents to participants during Startup Weekend Stavanger. [Photo: Andrea Rocha]
With the participants now fully focused on the valuable advice that might just turn that opening fact into a more hopeful statistic, Terje proceeded to outline the importance of startups for industry but emphasised the challenge that this attractive but risky segment presents for banks.

“Startups represent the same segment as the corporate eco-system”, said Terje. “However, startups also challenge us every day. They are new inventors of technology and they have good ideas. If we listen, we can move forward as a bank. The probability of remaining as a market leader is harder now. We need to listen and keep moving forward.”

Terje explained to the participants that the role of banks is often misunderstood by startups and suggested that startups would have more successful partnerships with banks if they approached the banks differently.

“I have worked with startups for some time now. The expectations of banks and our role are often misunderstood. I hear great ideas of good concepts that I’m positive about but often we can’t do anything”, said Terje. “The Banks commodity is money but this is based on grandparents, family, people like you….We need to trust the risk involved. The main role of a bank is to manage the risk of the money being invested.”

Avoiding the “Valley of Death”

Terje encouraged the participants to be engaged to succeed and told them – “You need to have passion but you also need to have stamina.” He highlighted how easy it can be in Norway to have opportunities to work and do well in life with Norway being one of the richest countries in the world. This inferred that startups may sometimes give up too soon, as it is often too easy to do something else in an economically stable country like Norway.

“In terms of financing your startup, you need to be willing to use private assets”, advised Terje. “You can’t start a business with 30,000 kroners and believe you can avoid the ‘valley of death’. Be prepared, have stamina, and ask yourself if it is a run or a marathon.”

Trust and Relationships Are Key for Startups

During his presentation at the Startup Weekend Stavanger Breakfast Seminar, Terje highlighted the four key areas that banks like DNB look for in a business – “positive, stable, predictable, cash flows.” Terje then outlined some of the most frequent questions that startups ask a bank like DNB.

“Startups always ask ‘how much can I borrow?’, but the answer depends on cash flow and security. You need to have cash flow”, said Terje. “Startups also ask ‘how much equity?’, but this also depends on cash flow and also the industry. Equity is a buffer for you not the bank. It is important to pay people and prepare for the ups and downs of your business.”

“Our slogan is “We will be here for you every day when it matters the most” and we aim to be known as the best bank in Norway for startups”, said Terje. “However, communicate with a bank as early as possible. The gap between concept and idea is big so you need to gain trust early and then get a relationship established to increase the chance of financing later on”, advised Terje.

To support the new generation of startups that were about to be discovered at Startup Weekend Stavanger, DNB provided a free book for every participant – “Opp-Start”.

“We do this book in Norwegian but we also have it in English on a great website. We also have 9 people dedicated to startups in DNB and one day a week we will have a person dedicated to startups at Mess and Order [Startup Weekend Stavanger’s event venue], so there is already a great community here.”

DNB is the Platinum Sponsor for Startup Weekend Stavanger Autumn 2014 and was present at the event over the event weekend to provide support and knowledge to the event participants who took part in the weekend event over 10 to 12 October 2014.